Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2020-21: Susan is a Probation Officer, with a third of a century of experience and commitment to the role, who receives a Commendation for her professional excellence, reflected in a series of outstanding testimonials by colleagues. One of several qualities in her practice – sheer persistence – is reflected in an astonishing 100% sufficiency in all her audited cases.
Hannah Woodward, a Senior Probation Officer and Susan’s Initial Nominator, writes that “thirty-two years is a lifetime, and this is the amount of time Susan has worked tirelessly for Probation. It’s quite astounding how her work has stayed at such a good quality and she currently has 100% sufficiency in all audited cases, a very rare result that highlights her exceptional work and attention to detail across a long and distinguished career.”
She explains that Susan “focuses always on the service users, constantly devising new ways to engage the women she currently manages,” and works collaboratively with Advance Minerva, the female intervention provider, frequently working to get women at risk into refuges promptly, and then focusing on giving those women the tools they need to support themselves.
“Her ability to motivate service users is equally impressive,” says Hannah, “as she has a great rapport with them.” She is also “exceptionally supportive” to the team, “helping new starters by letting them shadow her, and giving them invaluable knowledge and experience. Reliable and hard-working, she takes opportunities as they arise, including taking on the role of wellbeing champion and organising team-building events.”
Hannah adds that Susan’s “exceptional work” has a key consistent feature: “her true understanding of how powerful a wraparound service can be.” Hannah concludes by saying Susan “brings passion, drive and flexibility to her role, as well as her stubborn refusal to give up trying with any individual. This alone is remarkable, but the fact she has delivered these elements consistently over three decades is extraordinary.”
Lisa Morgan, Communications Manager and Butler Trust Local Champion shares further testimonials by colleagues:
“Susan is by far the most generous person I know,” says Senior Probation Officer Joanna White. “She has pushed me to achieve so much.” Area Manager Chantal Foster notes that “Susan works tirelessly to provide high quality outcomes and…has shown incredible commitment [and] is extremely humble.” Kirsty Sellars, another Probation Officer and colleague, says Susan “has been supportive both as a colleague and friend [and] she continues to encourage, support and motivate service users to make positive changes to their lifestyles.”
Meanwhile a team member from Advance Minerva calls Susan “a joy to have co-located in the Minerva Office. She is professional, dedicated and brings a positive vibe every Tuesday she is here. She completely understands the work Minerva aims to achieve and works in a trauma informed way with us, not against us – ensuring the women are at the centre of the conversation.” Another Minerva team member adds that Susan “is kind, professional and consistent in supporting her clients. She goes over and above to mentor both clients and colleagues and her dedication to the service is amazing.”
Lisa then chose three examples that highlight Susan’s qualities of persistence, innovation, and her “unshakeable belief” in “the possibility of change”:
The power of persistence
A chaotic female drug user had failed to engage until “Susan took on her case and refused to give up on her”. Combining intensive contact and motivational interviewing techniques with pro-social modelling helped build trust and after “three months of relentless determination”, the service user “began to trust Susan, and regularly attended group sessions at Advance Minerva, is on methadone prescription and has completed her Order for the first time.”
Finding innovative roads to success
“Working with a blind service user, Susan realised he would struggle to get to the probation office regularly and might miss appointments and be recalled. Attending all appointments at his home, she worked with the Community Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference, collaborating with agencies including the anti-social behaviour unit and adult social workers, to create a care plan. She clarified his exclusion zone, “using known landmarks to help him understand where he should and should not go. He did not stray into the exclusion zone and completed his order without issue.” Manager Hannah Woodward adds that “Susan’s sense of justice was her guiding point in this case, and she refused to let him be recalled for not being able to attend the probation office.”
The possibility of change
Working with a service user who had heavily used heroin for over 15 years, “Susan built trust carefully. When he was in hospital, she regularly visited him and took him on short trips out when well enough so he could experience normality. She collaborated with housing services to ensure a hostel space was available on his release and motivated him to engage with his methadone prescription. Over several years and much concerted effort, he went on to complete his license for the first time, maintaining using methadone without heroin. He has since remained drug free and in safe housing for the past three years…Susan ensured her service user did not lose hope and stayed focused on a brighter future and the promise of change.”
David Hood, Managing Director of the MTC Group, says “Susan has worked tirelessly with an unfaltering belief that even the most chaotic of service users can be helped to turn their lives around… Her knowledge of the key moments in a service user’s journey has come through decades of experience, which she now passes on to her two mentees who shadow her. She truly understands the power of a wraparound service, including all appropriate agencies and collaborating with them.” In Susan, he concludes, “you have the story of a life spent fighting without end to help service users realise their worth and begin, truly, to change.”
Susan herself emphasises how she finds her work rewarding because it offers “a more personal experience for service users helping them become motivated to make changes, even though sometimes small, in their lives.” She adds that she has “always tried to take pride in my work endeavouring to meet service users’ expectations” and concludes with the generous remark that, “having worked in the probation service for so many years I am aware of the very specific environment that is created by this work and how daunting this must be for anyone who is joining the service and as such will try and be supportive of them where possible.”
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